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Angels shortstop Erick Aybar returns Friday; Brandon Wood headed for bench [Updated]

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Erick Aybar, sidelined since June 15 because of cartilage damage in his left knee, ran the bases at full speed Friday and then entered the game against Colorado as a pinch-hitter before taking over at shortstop for the struggling Brandon Wood.

Manager Mike Scioscia said Aybar would start on Saturday. Wood, who has been filling in for Aybar, will be heading to the bench, forced to accept a utility role because of his continued struggles on offense and his recent defensive shortcomings.

Wood, for years the organization's top position-playing prospect, opened the season at third base but was hitting .156 when he went on the disabled list in late May. Kevin Frandsen, who is hitting .354, has earned the starting job at third base, at least temporarily, until Maicer Izturis comes off the disabled list.

"We're seeing Brandon at his absolute worst, a kid whose confidence is very low right now," Scioscia said in one of his harshest -- and most candid -- assessment of a player in years. "I don't know if you could have scripted a tougher start for a youngster trying to get his feet on the ground in the major leagues than we've seen with Brandon.

"Guys that have seen him for the last five years in the minor leagues have always seen a kid who has responded to challenges, a kid who has had a lot of confidence and has eventually made adjustments to advance to another level."

It does not appear that the Angels have given up on Wood, who entered Friday night's game with a .176 average, 44 strikeouts, three walks, two homers and eight RBIs in 148 at-bats.

"We're talking about 150 at-bats," Scioscia said. "Before this, he had maybe 200 at-bats, spread out [over three years]. I think our evaluation of Brandon's potential has not changed. I think the tough part is in the position our team is in -- we're in an achievement mode.

"We need guys to get in that lineup and contribute. Brandon knows this, and he's just going to have to deal with it and keep going forward and hopefully be part of that group that's going to produce and get us to be the team we hope to be."

Frandsen had never started a big league game at third base before this season, but after making errors in his first three starts there he has looked more comfortable. And he's been so productive at the plate, Scioscia moved him to the second spot in the order last week.

"There's no doubt he's opened some eyes around here," Scioscia said. "He's played a solid third base and has been a really refreshing part of our offensive resurgence."

--Mike DiGiovanna

Photo: Rockies center fielder Carlos Gonzalez slides safely into second base with a steal as Angels shortstop Erick Aybar fields the throw in the eighth inning Friday night. Credit: Christine Cotter / Associated Press

 
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